How Much Does Divorce Cost in BC?

If you are in an unhappy marriage, are considering separation from your spouse, or have been living separate and apart from your spouse for a time, you may wonder about the process of getting divorced from your spouse and the cost of doing so.

Process of Divorce

To get divorced, you need to go to court in the Supreme Court of British Columbia and ask a judge of the Supreme Court to sign an order declaring you divorced from your spouse.

You will need to convince the judge considering your case that:

  1. There are grounds under the Divorce Act to declare you divorced from your spouse.
  2. There are adequate arrangements to provide for any children of the marriage.

To show that there are grounds for divorce under the Divorce Act, you will need to prove one of three things:

  1. That the spouses have lived separate and apart from each other for at least one year immediately before the determination of the divorce proceeding.
  2. That one spouse has committed adultery.
  3. That one spouse has treated the other spouse with physical or mental cruelty making continued cohabitation intolerable.

It is the duty of the court in a divorce proceeding to consider the evidence and satisfy itself that there is no possibility of reconciliation between the spouses. However, if the circumstances show that such an inquiry by the court would be inappropriate, the court does not have to do so.

To show that there are adequate arrangements to provide for the children of the marriage, you will have to show that there is an agreement regarding child support that follows the Federal Child Support Guidelines. If there is no such agreement, you will have to convince the court that your existing arrangement is appropriate.

Divorce cases are going to fall into one of two general categories:

  1. Desk order divorce process with or without a separation agreement.
  2. Contested divorce.

The cost of the divorce is going to be different depending on the process you have to go through.

Desk Order Divorce Process

A party can obtain a divorce order through the desk order divorce procedure in an undefended family law case, which is defined in the Supreme Court Family Rules as a case in which one of the following is true:

  1. The case is a joint family law case and there has been no notice of withdrawal.
  2. No response to family claim has been filed.
  3. A response to family claim was filed but has been withdrawn or struck.
  4. A response to family claim and counterclaim have been filed but the notice of family claim and any response to the counterclaim have been withdrawn, struck, discontinued, or dismissed.
  5. All claims other than a claim for divorce have been settled between the parties and the claim for divorce is not contested.

I have explained the desk order divorce process in a previous blog post.

Contested Divorce

A contested divorce is one where the parties cannot resolve all the issues between themselves through negotiation and need to go to trial and obtain a court order to settle all of their issues, including property division, spousal support, and child support. The divorce cost in contested cases will be higher than in uncontested cases.

How Much Does Divorce Cost?

The answer depends on your circumstances and the relationship between you and your spouse.

If you plan to represent yourself in court (a course of action I generally do not recommend), the costs to you will be the filing fees, printing, copying, and travel expenses, and the time you will have to spend on the process.

If you plan to retain a lawyer to represent you, you will have to add the lawyer’s fees to all of the above costs. The lawyer’s fees will depend on the divorce process that is needed in your case.

A desk order divorce order where your spouse has been served with the pleadings and has not filed a response to family claim requires the least amount of work. Generally, British Columbia lawyers charge between $1800 – $3000 + taxes to do this work for clients. The exact cost depends on the location of the lawyer (some cities have lower cost of living), the firm’s quality of work and how busy the firm is (busier firms will be able to set higher prices), and the lawyer’s reputation, credentials, and education.

In a case where both a separation agreement and the desk order divorce process are needed, you can generally add another $1800 – $3000 + taxes to the fees charged by lawyers. That brings the total divorce cost to $3600 – $6000 + taxes.

In contested divorce cases, lawyers charge for their time in 6 minutes increments. What that means is that for each 6 minutes that your lawyer works on your file, they will charge you 10% of their hourly rate. There is no limit to how high the divorce cost can get in contested divorce cases, a fact some couples discover after they have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees on lawyers and wasted years of their life fighting in court.

If you are considering separating from your spouse or seeking divorce, contact Pax Law’s family lawyer today for a consultation regarding your options.

How much does a divorce cost in BC?

The answer depends on the kind of divorce and whether or not you decide to retain a lawyer to assist you. For a desk order divorce that you do entirely on your own, the price will be just the court filing fees $290 – $330. For a desk order divorce with the assistance of a lawyer, the cost can range from $1,500 (no separation agreement and a cheap lawyer) to $7,000 (a good lawyer who had to draft a separation agreement in an amicable divorce).

If the divorce is not amicable and there is a court fight, the costs can easily go to tens of thousands of dollars.

Who pays for the divorce in BC?

It depends. In an amicable divorce, the parties have to reach an agreement regarding who pays the court and legal fees for obtaining a divorce order. In a divorce with a court fight, the court may grant “costs” to the winning party. In most case, court granted costs will cover some but not all of the winning party’s legal costs.

How long does it take to get a divorce in BC?

If the parties are in agreement and have resolved all issues between them, they can obtain a divorce order in as little as 2 months. 31 days after the divorce order is signed by the judge, the divorce will be final and the parties can obtain a certificate of divorce.

Do I need a separation agreement to get a divorce in BC?

You do not always need a separation agreement to get divorced in BC. For example, if there is a family law trial in your divorce and the court decides on the issues between you and your spouse, a separation agreement will not be necessary.

This post was reviewed an updated on 26 March 2023.

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